ACR supports bill to stall USPSTF draft recommendations

The American College of Radiology (ACR) strongly supports a bill that would put a two-year moratorium on recent draft breast cancer screening recommendations made by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

H.R. 3339, the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act, was introduced last week by U.S. representatives Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). Ellmers and Wasserman Schultz said the two years would give Congress more time to properly discuss concerns that have been raised about both the USPSTF and the impact its recommendations could have on women’s health in the U.S.

“We’re very supportive of the legislation,” Cynthia Moran, ACR executive vice president of government relations, economics and health policy, told “We think representatives Ellmers and Wasserman Schultz are doing a great service, and we support the legislation strongly.”

The impetus for the PALS Act came earlier this year, when the USPSTF gave biennial mammograms for women ages 50 to 74 a “B,” but not mammograms for women in their 40s or annual mammograms for women of any age. The Affordable Care Act currently says that preventive services receiving an “A” or “B” grade from the USPSTF must be completely covered by private insurers without a copay.

Moran noted that it’s difficult for any piece of legislation to get signed into law, but this particular bill might have a better chance than most others because it is “politically realistic.”

She compared this with the USPSTF Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 1151), which was introduced earlier this year by representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.). The ACR supports that bill as well, but Moran thinks it will have a tougher time getting all the way to the president’s desk because of the significant changes it is aiming to make to the USPSTF.

“The Blackburn Bill is controversial,” Moran said. “This bill, because it just maintains status quo, is probably viewed as less controversial and its chances of going somewhere are improved.”

If the PALS Act does pass, what could it potentially mean for the USPSTF? Could it lead to changes to the ACA?

Moran said it’s difficult to predict exactly what would happen during the two-year moratorium. Election season is approaching, and it’s unclear what direction the breast cancer screening debate will go once the dust settles.

“Regardless of what happens in the elections a year from this November, in two years, it will be a different congress and a different White House,” Moran said. “Nobody knows what the dynamic is going to be.”